Whether you’re bird watching, or scouting for a place to camp, you’ll need a pair of quality compact binoculars.
If you have the space in your pack, you could head for a bulkier set. But let’s face it, packing light makes a trail or camp, that little bit more enjoyable.
And, the best compact binoculars available online in 2020 are lightweight, so there’s no need to pack them away. Instead, you can keep them handy, and you’ll hardly notice they’re there.
What Our Guide To The Best Compact Binoculars Includes
Our aim here, is to save you time, as well as help you pick the best product possible for the money. This guide is going to include a few useful sections for buyers, including:
- How we picked our shortlist (from an initial group of 20 products)
- Reviews of the top 5 compact binoculars we could find
How We Shortlisted
We’ve trawled the web for hours. During these hours (well, more like days), we researched over 20 pairs of compact binoculars, to find the ones most suitable for our list of the very best.
From the 20+ sets we liked, we went ahead and shortlisted 5 pairs of the best compact binoculars we could find based on:
- Price, and value for money
- Fog proofing
2020’s Best Compact Binoculars
Our overall top pick comes from Bushnell. But, it’s not a one size fits all.
1. Bushnell Legend 25mm
But, this list is all about being compact. If you want the smallest and lightest compact binoculars on our list, but don’t want to compromise on quality, this is where you should put your cash.
2. Nikon Prostaff 7S 10×30
The Nikon Prostaff 7S 10×30 are the runners-up in our list. Viewing quality is comparable to the Bushnells, but the Bushnell Legends win hands down, when it comes to size and weight; they’re the smallest and lightest on our list.
3. Carson 8×32 3D Series
We’d be heading for Carson’s 3D Series if you have a large budget and want the best-of-the-best in terms of viewing quality. You’ll get some change from $300.
4. Wingspan Probirder 8×32
These are our top pick for those with a budget of under $150, especially if you plan on bird watching; this is what the Probirder compacts are designed for.
5. Wingspan Optics Spectator 8X32
Looking for quality, on a budget? If you’ve got less than $100 to spend. The Wingspan Spectators is where you should be putting your money.
Wait, What Is Magnification?
If you’ve already been researching compact binoculars, there’s a good chance you’ve been seeing a couple of numbers alongside reviews and product descriptions; 8×42 for instance.
This ISN’T the size of the product.
The first number refers to how many times bigger an object will seem, when viewed through your compact binoculars. In our example above, that’s 8x its usual size.
The second refers to the lens size; 42mm in the example above. Typically, a larger lens is going to allow in more light, giving a more clearer view of whatever you’re trying to look out.
You need to be realistic about price. There are compact binoculars on sale as low as $20. They’re not going to offer the lightweight construction you need, have the field of view, or the quality of magnification.
Typically, you should expect to budget $70-100 for a quality set of compact binoculars. That’s for a hobbyist; you’re probably just wanting to get a clearer view on the trail, every now and then.
If you’re main goal when getting outdoors is viewing using binos, you’re going to need to stretch your budget; somewhere in the $200-400 range is going to offer the best value for money.
So below, we’ve got a range of top picks from around $70 through to $300.
The Best Compact Binoculars For The Money In 2020
With the boring stuff out the way, let’s get to it.
Below, we’ve included some details worth mentioning from our 5 top picks for the best compact binoculars.
Nikon Prostaff 7S 10×30
First up, we’ve got the Nikon Prostaff 7S 10×30 compact binoculars. And, it goes without saying that Nikon is a top-quality brand.
Although they’re better known for their range of cameras, they make a tonne of other kit, including binoculars like the Prostaff 7S.
Overall, you’ll get plenty of value for money, thanks to the Prostaff 7S’s lightweight design and roof prism for maximum viewing quality. If you’re looking for an excellent allrounder for viewing almost anything outdoors, and have a budget of under $200, the Nikon Prostaff 7S binoculars are for you.
As we’ve already mentioned, you’re going to need a budget of around $200 if you want the Prostaff 7S. For the money, that’s a good deal, as you’ll see if you stack them up directly with competitor’s products.
Nikon’s Advanced Optical System
One of the cool features we liked about the Prostaff 7S, is the Advanced Optical System.
Essentially, the idea behind the Optical System, is to provide the highest resolution images to viewers. And, that comes down to almost perfect color reproduction. That’s thanks to the coated roof prisms, that incorporate phase correction.
But, it’s also due to quality light transmittance across the light spectrum. It’s only multilayer coatings (that the 7S has) that enables viewers to get this.
Basically, you’ll get the clearest and most natural images possible, thanks to the combined efforts of every component in the Advanced Optical System in the Nikon 7S compact binoculars.
What you’ll find with a lot of the cheap compact binoculars, is that they’re extremely uncomfortable to use, especially for prolonged periods of time.
And, this is where the Prostaff 7S seems to be a few steps ahead of the competition. The ergonomic rubber (and armored) body, is designed not just for comfort, but for extended periods of viewing. And, that even includes viewing in the rain, thanks to the non-slip grip.
By putting the focus knob central it makes adjusting the 7S’s focus extremely easy, you won’t need to pull away from whatever you’re viewing.
What’s not immediately obvious when you look at the Nikon Prostaffs, is that the eyecups are designed so they can be customized.
The turn and slide format means that you can shape the eyecups to suit you, for maximum comfort. Again, that’s not a feature that you’re going to get with cheap compact binoculars.
Protection From The Elements
We’ve already mentioned that between adjustable eyecups and a non-slip grip, these compact binoculars can be used in the rain. But, what protection do they have, when the heavens open?
First up, these are waterproof. You’ll get waterproofing to a depth of 1m for around 10 minutes.
But, by filling the binoculars with Nitrogen, the Prostaffs aren’t just waterproof, but they’re fog proof too.
The Prostaffs from Nikon pack plenty of punches, so you’d expect them to be reasonably bulky. But, that’s not the case.
They weigh in at just 420g, which is incredibly lightweight for a pair of binoculars of this calibre.
Nikon’s Repair & Replacement Policy
One of the things we focused on when creating this list of the best compact binoculars, is repair & replacement policies, as well as warranty. After all, we want to make sure your investment is protected.
With Nikon, if any damage occurs and it’s not covered under Limited Lifetime Warranty, you can send your binos to them, and they’ll repair them for free.
Nikon’s Lifetime Warranty
Likewise, if there’s ever a fault with your Nikon compact binoculars, you can send it in to Nikon, and they’ll repair or replace them free of charge.
And, that’s the type of peace of mind you need, when you’re spending around $200 on a product.
We’re huge fans of the Nikon Prostaff 7S. Our favorite features include:
- Waterproofing & fog proofing
- Adjustable eyecups
- Lightweight, at just 420g
If you’ve got a budget of around $200, the 10×30 Nikon Prostaff 7S binoculars are a worthy contender for your cash.
Carson 3D Series
Carson have been producing some of the best compact binoculars available, since 1991. And in their current range of products, the 3D Series are one of the most popular.
Let’s not side-step the obvious. The Carson 3D series compact binoculars are some of the most expensive on our shortlist. But, believe it or not, they still offer exceptional value for money. They rival other leading manufacturer’s products, that cost $400 and beyond.
The Carson 3D series? Depending on the current deals on offer, you should be able to pick up a set, and still have change from $300.
This is where the Carson 3D Series really earn their money. You’ll get 8x magnification, that’s crisp and clear thanks to the sharp 32mm lens using ED glass.
That’s all backed up by phase-corrected prisms, with the aim of enhancing resolution, not to mention color fidelity and contrast; it helps to shoot towards the clearest viewing possible.
But, it’s the field of view that’s most impressive. You’ll be getting 392ft at 1,000yds, which is up there with the best in the business.
Durability & Weatherproofing
You’ll get a deluxe carry case to keep the Carson 3Ds dry. And, if you want to keep them accessible but also protected, you can make use of the lens covers that are included with the purchase.
But, when you’re using them, you won’t need to worry about rain, as they’re both waterproof and fog proof. And, that comes from a Nitrogen purged body, complete with an O-ring seal, keeping the Carson 3Ds water tight.
What we don’t talk about much with cheap binoculars, is comfort. And, that’s because it’s often not available in abundance, or at all in some cases.
With the Carson 3D, you’ll get ergonomic thumb grooves. That stops RSI during extended periods of viewing.
And, like the Nikon Prostaff, you’ve got the ability to adjust the eyecups. You’ll be able to twist down the eyecups for that perfect fit. Even to a point, where these are suitable for those that wear glasses.
Going one step further, if you plan to spend upwards of a ½ day viewing, there’s a good chance you don’t want to hold your binoculars throughout. That’s why Carson have made sure that the 3D Series are tripod mountable (you’ll need to buy a tripod and mount separately).
Size & Weight
These binos pack a punch, and that means that they’re not going to be the lightest; they weight 1.2lbs (around 545g).
But, they’re still compact, with dimensions of 5” x 5” x 1.8”.
The warranties on offer for the best compact binoculars all tend to be similar. Carson offer a no-hassle warranty.
That means that if your binoculars are damaged, regardless of the cause, they’ll repair or replacement them. So, whether you drop them, or there’s a manufacturing defect, you’ve got a functional set of compact binoculars for life.
If you’re looking for the best-of-the-best, and have a budget of under $300, then the Carson 3D Series are a worthy contender for your cash.
They’re relatively lightweight, extremely compact, and offer viewing capabilities that are unrivalled when doing a direct comparison with any other product on this list.
Admittedly, they’re not the cheapest. So, if you don’t have the required $300 budget and have a limit of under $200, the Nikon Prostaff is where you want to be heading.
Wingspan Probirder 8×32
Next up, we’ve got the Wingspan Probirder 8×32 compacts. Given this incorporates a 32mm lens, over the 30mm lens of the Nikon, you’re going to be allowing more light into the viewing prism, and that’s going to lead to high quality images relative to the price point.
And, given the Wingspan compact binoculars are a cheaper product (just over $100 purchase price), it’s likely you’ll need the extra 2mm on the lens, to be comparable in terms of viewing quality.
Whilst these are bird watching specific compact binoculars, that’s not to say they can’t be using for the likes of hiking (check out our hiking guide here) or walking, which is why we’ve included them in our “best” list.
The Wingspan Probirder sit in a lower price bracket than the Nikon Prostaff 7S; you’ll be able to pick your set for somewhere in the $100-150 range.
For this budget range, you’ll get top-notch viewing capability. The Wingspans are UltraHD, making outdoor images look crisper and clearer than ever.
You’ll get an extra wide field of view thanks to the 32mm lens, a close up focus and phase correction coated prism. Combine that with ED glass and you’ve got a set of compact binoculars suited to any trail.
You won’t find ED (extra-low dispersion) glass in most sets of cheap compact binoculars, but you do here.
The idea behind it, is to improve image quality, especially under magnification. That’s achieved by reducing the amount of color fringing, and chromatic aberration.
You might not expect to be giving your compact binoculars much abuse, but use is abuse, after all. With these lightweight binoculars, you’ll get DuraTech to help make them last.
And, to make sure the Wingspans don’t impair your vision during a day out, their purged with Nitrogen. That’s going to make them both waterproof and fog proof.
Field Of View
With the Wingspan Probirder, you’ll get an excellent field of view, at around 393ft/1000yds, comparable to the Nikons mentioned above.
This is again, where the Nikon compacts are better. Weighing in at 420g, they’re a good chunk lighter than the Wingspans, which weigh in at 1.3lbs (around 590g).
If you’re looking to wear your binoculars round your neck all day, so they’re easily accessible for viewing, the Nikons are going to be the more comfortable option of the two.
Like the Nikon Prostaffs, you’ll get a lifetime warranty with the Wingspan Probirder 8×32. That means they’ll repair or replace your product, if there’s a manufacturing defect.
In comparison to the Nikon Prostaff 7S, the Wingspan Probirder compact binoculars are an obvious entry-level set, designed for beginners, or specifically, bird watchers.
If you’re planning to use these on occasion, simply for bird watching on a hike or camping weekend, they’re fit for purpose. But, if you want something suited to all kinds of outdoor viewing, we’d still stick to the Nikon 7S.
Wingspan Optics Spectator 8X32
We did mention that to get a set of reasonably decent quality compact binoculars, you need to be spending $150 and beyond. And, you’ve already got a good option above, with the Wingspan Probirder.
But, if you’re a hobbyist that doesn’t want to splash that kind of cash, there’s another option, from the same brand; the Wingspan Optics Spectator 8×32.
If you’re looking for the best cheap binoculars, and want change from $100, then the Wingspan Optics Spectator 8×32 and the ones for you.
Like anything, you do get what you pay for, but we feel that based on the brand, field of view, lens size and their low price, they offer excellent value for money; perfect for all-round viewing on the trail.
Size & Weight
The Wingspan Optics Spectator are the perfect pocket-sized binoculars for the trail. And, for such a cheap set, they’re lightweight, weighing in at 15.2 ounces (around 432g). That puts them somewhere in the middle-ground, between the Probirder (heavier) and the Nikons (lighter) we’ve mentioned above.
Field Of View
What you’ll find impressive with the Wingspan Spectator, is the field of view. You’ll get impressive detail at 8x magnification, and that’s even at 1000yds.
And, if you’re planning on using these in the rain, the Spectators are perfect, thanks to their non-slip grip.
You’ll get the same lifetime warranty that comes with the more expensive Probirders. So, you’ll get them repaired or replaced if there’s a manufacturing defect.
And, if you’re not happy with their quality, you can return them, thanks to Wingspan’s 30-day money back guarantee.
Realistically, this all comes down to price. You’ll get the best clarity from the Nikon Prostaffs, and less with both sets of Wingspans mentioned here.
But, if you have a budget of under $100, the Spectators are an excellent choice. Although they don’t have the weatherproofing of the two sets mentioned above (i.e. Probirder and Prostaff), you’ll get a chunk of change from $100, making these the best cheap compact binoculars available from a leading brand.
And, as an additional positive, if weight is an issue for you, they weigh in similar when compared to the more expensive Nikons.
Bushnell Legend 25mm
Let’s face it, it would rude to not mention Bushnell in this list. Although it’s the 25mm Legends we’re focusing on, we recommend checking out Bushnell’s full range; it’s extensive, and a brand worth considering.
We’ve featured the Bushnell Legend 10x25mm on our list, as these are about as compact as you can get, without compromising little, or anything, when it comes to quality of images.
For a set packing such a punch, we think the Bushnell 10x25mm Legends, are one of the best for the money.
You’ll need to weigh these up directly against the Nikon Prostaffs, as they’re comparable in terms of price, at under $200.
Size & Weight
If you’re wanting a set of true compacts, the Bushnell Legends are for you.
They’re tiny, with dimensions of just 4.61” x 2.28” x 3.39”; that makes them the smallest on our list.
And, the same goes for weight. At 0.59lbs (around 232g), they’re nearly half the weight of the average set of compact binoculars. That’s down to the incredibly light weight chassis material being used; magnesium.
Packing big features into something so small isn’t easy, but Bushnell have managed to do it. The quality of optics is second to none, starting with the 10x magnification.
But, to get image quality at 10x, a few other components need to be incorporated. And, the Bushnell Legends have them. They include the likes of:
- ED glass
- Ultra-wide band coating
- BaK-4 prisms which optimize light
So, you don’t need to be worried that at 10x, viewing quality is going anything but spectacular.
Durability isn’t a worry either. They’ll be highly protected from impacts, thanks to that magnesium chassis. But, given there’s a neck strap included and an ergonomically designed grip, the chances of a drop happening, are minimal.
You’ll get weatherproofing too. The soft touch grip means you’re not transferring as much heat as you would with other binos (leading to fogging during damp conditions), and even if you are, the construction of the Bushnells means they offer 100% waterproofing, and are fog proof too.
The Bushnell Legends are the best compact binoculars for those looking for a tiny and lightweight product; they’re the smallest on our list.
And, image quality isn’t compromised. Given they’re UltraHD, they’re never going to be at the low-end in terms of price.
Price wise, you’ll need 2x that of the Spectators, but they’re in the realms of the Nikon Prostaffs in terms of price and quality, but much cheaper than the Carson 3D Series. And, we think that makes these the best compact binoculars for the money, for those where size and weight is the priority.
Thanks for reading our review of the best compact binoculars available, for a range of different budgets and purposes.
Still got questions? Got a set we’ve not mentioned, and want to share your opinion with our readers?
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